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Handwritten letter from Oswaldo Cruz (1914)

Handwritten letter from Oswaldo Cruz (1914)

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In 1914, the doctor Oswaldo Cruz, a refugee in London with a warlike climate, congratulates his mother on her birthday.

Handwritten letter from Oswaldo Cruz to his mother. 4 pages. In Portuguese. 12.7 cm x 20 cm. London, 22nd October 1914. Excellent condition. Single piece.

My precious Mother,

This letter should reach you close to your birthday. She is the bearer of the liveliest and most sincere wishes for your happiness and for the conservation of your precious health, our greatest treasure that we all keep with our greatest devotion. That day we were all in spirit by his side.

You are already wisely informed about what our life has been like here, through the letters of my Doctor who writes, I can inform you with greater [detail] and more art than I do of what happens here every day (...).

Our return will depend on the development of things related to war. The seas are not completely free and for this reason and more I believe that, for the time being, England is the one who wants us to remain more separated, unless there is a radical change in the fortunes of the other allies. In this case we will have to separate the path less signing that will be the way back there.

London, despite the separation that opened it up, is a sad city. only leaves began to fall. The big one appears fake wrapped in dense gray fog. At night there is no lighting – precaution against the Nephilim who are expected but who have not come and I think will never come (...).


Called the “Doctor of Brazil”, Oswaldo Cruz (1872 - 1917) graduated as a doctor at the age of twenty, already showing an interest in microbiology, which gained importance thanks to the studies carried out by the Frenchman Louis Pasteur.

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, Brazil experienced the end of monarchy and slavery. Crowds who then lived in the countryside went to cities like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Without basic sanitation and with precarious conditions of infrastructure, serious diseases (yellow fever, bubonic plague and smallpox) emerged. The President at the time asked for the help of Oswaldo Cruz, who wrote a health code, including mandatory vaccination and educational leaflets for the population and health professionals.

Despite the Vaccine Revolt, which took place in 1904, Oswaldo Cruz achieved national and international recognition for the creation of an institute - still very active today - for research and teaching, in addition to the production of vaccines and basic medicines for the needy population.

We have little information about Oswaldo Cruz's personal life. According to Brasiliana Itaú (page 542), "Oswaldo Cruz's letters are quite rare, which is perhaps due to his relatively short life. Most of the letters that became available to collectors form part of a family correspondence with his brother-in-law, the painter João Batista da Costa, which was dispersed a few years ago."

Nara Azevedo and Ana Luce Girão Soares de Lima, researchers at the Oswaldo Cruz Institute, really reinforce that the letter confirms some little-documented biographical elements about Oswaldo Cruz.

The mother | There are very few letters from Oswaldo Cruz to his mother in his archive. According to Oswaldo Cruz's biographers, she was quite cultured by the standards of the time, fluent in English and French. His parents were teachers in the city of Petrópolis, which is close to Rio de Janeiro. Amália Bulhões Cruz taught her six children to read and write. From the records we have in the letters to his wife, we see that Oswaldo Cruz frequented the theater, opera, and various shows. He was in great demand for books, as we see from his correspondence with Paul Albanel of the firm Albanel et fils. which also sent equipment and scientific material. Could we speculate that your cultural taste was influenced by your mother? The fact is that references to her in biographies are few and in her personal archive as well.

The disease | Reading the letter, the reference to the doctor (it's the woman) seems to be a clue that the disease was already taking the family's attention. As I have already mentioned, the disease intensified a few months later.

Travel in Europe | Oswaldo Cruz had been in France with his whole family since early July 1914. The purpose of the trip was to visit European research centers and take a relative to Switzerland for treatment. When France entered the war, he used his decoration of Officer of the Légion d'honneur to obtain a safe conduct and take the family to England, where he believed to be safe from the bombing of German airplanes, which at that moment hit Paris.

Financial difficulties | (...) the following address: 41. Queen's Garden. Lancaster Gate. London. W., (...) was a modest pension. In London, financial difficulties continued.

The stay in London | He visited, accompanied by his wife, Westminster Abbey. On another occasion, he visited the National Gallery in the company of Graça Aranha, a Brazilian poet and diplomat, whom he had probably met at the Brazilian Academy of Letters. Oswaldo Cruz stayed in London from the end of August 1914 until January 1915, and as far as we know, did not carry out scientific activities. He returned to Brazil alone and very sick, but had to leave his family there, for fear of attacks on ships crossing the Atlantic.

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